Building Envelope, Climate Change, Construction, Energy, LEED, Residential Buildings

Salon Summary:
Walking the Talk at Choate

No Comments Posted on 09 October 2013 by Cecil Scheib

Plumbing magnate Herbert Kohler cast his bread upon the waters when he funded a LEED Platinum environmental center at his boarding school alma mater. Choate has made the most of this opportunity, building a combined dorm, dining hall, and laboratory that teaches about the environment in more ways than one. The audience at Urban Green’s sold-out When Buildings Teach got the inside scoop from the project team on October 3.

The Kohler Environmental Center is exemplary in its use of a low-cost, low-capital input approach adopted long before construction began. Choate sat down with the design team to carefully consider – and influence – occupant behavior and target comfort levels. When planning for a net-zero building, a single degree of extra summer cooling can mean tens of thousands of dollars of solar panels. Preventing this unneeded capital expenditure required long discussions about details normally considered too small for the architect, engineer, and energy modeler to get involved with. This included whether students could cope with 78F instead of 77F temperatures during the summer, how often faculty members would use clothes dryers in their apartments, and if students could reasonably be persuaded to forgo plasma TVs in favor of laptops.

Most building designs assume the worst of future occupants, and design HVAC, lighting, and electric services to match this dystopian (though perhaps realistic) consumption scenario. By setting more modest goals for occupant comfort, the designers were able to downsize equipment – and that meant fewer solar panels. While Choate benefits from knowing more about its future student and faculty “tenants” that a typical residential developer, the design team did two key replicable things:

  • Education. Choate teaches each student about how to use the green features of their building, including an energy dashboard that can compare the usage of individual dorm rooms. As the building owner and operator, the school has committed to deep tenant engagement about how to help their building perform sustainably – a big commitment given they’ll always have new teenage tenants every year.
  • Careful design. Orientation and window placement ensure that even laboratory areas can be operated without artificial light during daytime hours. Building massing minimizes cooling needs (there is a hope that in some summers, the AC will never be turned on). There are even buried concrete earth ducts to pre-temper conditioning air, precisely sized to reduced HVAC needs while avoiding mold-encouraging condensation.

The building incorporates some traditional (and expensive) green features – ground source heat pumps and acres of solar panels to serve the goal of a net zero building; high tech showerheads (more about those in a bit); and sugar maple wood paneling where you can see where holes were drilled for taps. More importantly, onsite Choate faculty member Joe Scanio is committed to seeing the 31,325 square foot facility meet its goals, semi-obsessively checking its 400+ sensors to ensure it is operating according to plan. By doing so, Scanio fills a common gap in green building – verifying environmental performance after occupancy.

Audience discussion was lively, possibly sparked by the presenters’ refreshing openness about challenges they faced during design. Emilie Hagen (Atelier Ten), Kevin Smith (RAMSA), Craig Razza (Kohler Ronan), and Scanio spoke of Choate’s ambivalence about building on a greenfield (in an area where farmland is scarce), before deciding that the academic benefits of doing so outweighed the environmental costs. I’m sure the student residents who watched from their windows as a hawk captured a rabbit would agree! Razza also brought up the challenges the team faced in maintaining a research-grade greenhouse without combustion; in the end, a biodiesel boiler was supplied.

But what about those high-tech showerheads? Funding from a fixture manufacturer has its distinct benefits. After polling design team members and client representatives about their shower habits, Herbert Kohler realized that while most people can live with a very low-flow showerhead, they do need occasional blasts of higher volume flow (for instance, to rinse thick hair). According to the panelists, Kohler directed his engineers to invent a new showerhead on the spot – in this case, a low flow unit with a high-flow override that can temporarily provide more water flow while a button is held down. They are installed and working at Choate, where users report satisfaction from the chance to briefly enjoy more water, while using it only a small fraction of the time. If these hit the market in the future, we’ll thank RAMSA, Atelier Ten, Kohler Ronan, and Choate for being willing to go outside the box in terms of tenant education and engagement.

LEED, Products & Materials

Kudos to Skanska

No Comments Posted on 10 July 2013 by Russell Unger

It’s not Urban Green’s practice to highlight the business policies of specific firms, but sometimes an exception is in order. Yesterday, Skanska announced its withdrawal from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “to protest the organization’s backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for government buildings.”

The chemical industry is lobbying vigorously under the guise of the “American High-Performance Building Coalition“ to insert an innocuous-sounding provision into the Senate’s Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill (S.761) that would prevent the U.S. government from using LEED. According to Skanska’s announcement, they withdrew from the Chamber after an unsuccessful effort to convince the association to drop its support of this anti-LEED initiative.

Why does the chemical industry have LEED in its sights? The short answer is that it’s about one or two points out of 100 that would reward the use of healthier building materials. The longer answer is the industry probably fears the precedent and where this may go in the long run.

If the chemical lobby is successful, it could be a major setback for LEED and the wider green building industry. The federal government has been one of the most committed users of LEED since the standard’s early days and countless designers, contractors, and trades cut their teeth on federal projects. If the chemical industry wins at the federal level, we can expect them to redouble their efforts to undermine green building in statehouses and city halls across the country.

Some of you – our members and readers – work for firms that are members of the Chamber of Commerce. And the rest of you regularly hear from manufacturers touting their green credentials with the hope you will buy or spec their products for LEED projects. Now’s a good time to put those green claims to a real test: ask them as environmental leaders whether they are going to follow Skanska’s suit.

LEED

Jumpstart your LEED EBOM Certification

1 Comment Posted on 27 March 2013 by Tiffany Broyles Yost

To qualify for LEED EBOM, an ENERGY STAR score of 69 or higher was a benchmark many older buildings just couldn’t achieve. The score means that the building performs better than 69% of buildings with a similar use, regardless of age.

If only you could get a few more of those ENERGY STAR scores above 69, you’d have a portfolio full of LEED buildings! This used to be the building owner’s lament, but no more. Now there’s Energy Jumpstart.

The innovative USGBC program is the first pilot prerequisite in USGBC’s Pilot Credit Library. This alternate compliance path will qualify buildings for LEED EBOM if they reduce energy consumption by 20% over a 12-month period, regardless of what their ENERGY STAR score is. Although buildings using this compliance path are only eligible to achieve the LEED Certification rating, it offers a clear route into the LEED system.  USGBC also encourages recertification, so buildings using Energy Jumpstart will have the opportunity to re-certify at LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum in the future.

With Energy Jumpstart, USGBC hopes to determine the effectiveness of a performance improvement path for LEED – the more projects that use the pilot prerequisite to jump into LEED, the better. If you would like to see this option become a permanent pathway, then begin using Energy Jumpstart on your projects and spread the word. Let’s get all buildings running efficiently and reward significant achievement throughout the market.

LEED, Products & Materials

LEED, the GSA and Dark Money

1 Comment Posted on 20 February 2013 by Yetsuh Frank

I attended Greenbuild for the first time in 2004 when it was hosted in Portland and it was truly a revelation.  I understood for the first time, in a really tangible way, that I was not alone in my interest in healthy, energy-conserving buildings and communities.  Having felt like a pretty lonely voice at various architecture firms over the years, this was enormously empowering.  At that time, there were also very few places you could learn about products or systems that were greener than the rest.  The floor of that showroom was where I first learned of the existence of Icestone countertops, tankless hot water heating, biodegradable textiles and a host of other amazing materials that few if any architecture firms had in their materials libraries.

Sadly- it was also the first time I would run into the forces of darkness and their heavily funded program to retain the status quo (in which we DO NOT ask questions and we continue poisoning our environment and ourselves.)  This came in the form of a booth for the Vinyl Institute.  Back in those days most manufacturers had not invested heavily in marketing for Greenbuild.  Booths were mostly scrappy affairs, high on content and low on glitz.  In the middle of the floor, however, the Vinyl Institute had erected a gleaming white rectangular space, with a staff in pristine white uniforms.

It was like a set from 2001: A Space Odyssey and was almost as creepy since it included no products or materials- just disconcertingly cheerful staff handing out white postcards with their pitch for using vinyl in buildings.  Written by what must be the most brazen PR team in history, I kept this comical brochure on my desk for years.  The debate about whether LEED should reward buildings that avoided vinyl was brewing and the brochure was full of vague language asserting that vinyl created “healthy” buildings because the surface was easy to clean of germs and bacteria- totally ignoring the up- and downstream impacts of polyvinyl chloride.  It was mealy-mouthed stuff but the best part was the asterisk at the end of a paragraph, which referenced the following caveat: “This is not meant to be a technical document.”  I was very glad to have THAT cleared up.

Sadly- almost ten years later the debate about vinyl and many other materials rages on.  The most recent evidence of this battle is industry pressure on the Government Services Administration (GSA) to include other rating systems than LEED in their performance standards.  Eco Building Pulse notes the efforts of a group called the American High Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) to influence the public comment process.  Certainly this is a decision that should be reviewed.  Green Globes is a much better system than it once was, and as code standards like IGCC and ASHRAE 189.1 are developed, the GSA and others should look into whether and how to incorporate them.

But I think we are allowed to question the motives of a group like AHPBC professing deep concern for the environmental impact of our buildings that is funded by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Adhesive and Sealant Council, the American Chemistry Council, and the aforementioned Vinyl Institute.

Among other complaints, the AHBPC is opposed to the inclusion of the European REACH standard in LEED v4.  One of their prominent spokespersons, Craig Silvertooth of the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, has even said that the materials standards proposed in LEED v4 “prohibits the design and construction of energy-efficiency, safe buildings.”  Because, you know, they don’t have any of THOSE in Europe.  Many positions of the AHBPC seemed predicated on a willful misunderstanding about the role of voluntary, market leadership guidelines like LEED and minimum threshold codes for things like life safety.  They also have failed to understand that not getting credit for something isn’t the same as that thing being prohibited.  You can pack all the non-FSC woods you want in your LEED Platinum building- you’re just not going to get the FSC credit.  It must be frustrating to them that LEED is structured so reasonably.  The real problem seems to be that they just don’t want anyone, ever, pointing out that lots of their materials contain toxins and carcinogens, or that their extraction processes are deeply harmful to the regional ecology.

In related news, Lloyd Alter over at Treehugger does some digging to discover who is funding the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, another group that seems determined to undermine LEED, and finds deep connections to major players in the far-right conservative universe, including Dick Cheney.

As a proponent of LEED and as someone who disagrees with everything I have read about the positions of AHBPC and TPA, I actually find it heartening to learn that Dick Cheney may be our enemy.  From a purely objective perspective, having someone as prominent as that as a detractor is clear evidence that the green building community is an important movement making real impact.  Big enough to be noticed by the biggest players is a good thing.  It is also evidence that those of us who disagree with folks like AHBPC and TPA need to remain vigilant, engaged and determined.  We are what stands between progress and a harsh reversion to the status quo of 20 years ago.

 

EBies, Energy, LEED

All Together Now: A New EBie Award

No Comments Posted on 16 January 2013 by Cecil Scheib

Now in its second year, the EBie Awards from Urban Green Council, USGBC New York, are a nationwide juried competition for people working in Existing Buildings who have made great strides in improving environmental performance but whose accomplishments may otherwise go unheralded. Like the Oscars, there are multiple awards – but instead of Best Actor (or Best Key Grip) we have categories like Shine A Light On Me for the best lighting retrofit, and The Reformed Drinker for water savings. It’s sustainability in buildings, but sexy, with a glitzy awards ceremony (held at the Hard Rock Cafe Theatre in Times Square) for finalists and winners.

This year, we have added a new award for those people who work in multiple buildings: All Together Now, which recognizes the most improved portfolio across multiple sustainability categories, including water, waste management, stormwater, materials use, indoor environmental quality, and tenant engagement. The award is similar to the The All-Rounder, which is for a single building, but is designed for entrants who own, operate, or manage a group of buildings and improve their combined environmental performance. We expect that some of the biggest real improvements (not per square foot, but total water or energy savings) will come from portfolios, simply due to their size.

Working across a portfolio doesn’t mean you do different things, but it does change how you go about it. On the positive side, there’s lots of opportunity for lessons learned as conservation measures are repeated over and over (and over and over). Economies of scale come into play: once,when buying occupancy sensors for a campus-wide renovation, I found the price dropped by more than half when ordering 1,000 sensors instead of 100. Repetition can improve efficiency as project managers, purchasing agents, suppliers, and contractors develop good habits, and once-innovative processes become routine. And it’s much easier to get project approval from the right people – building occupants and top management – with a proven track record of success within the same portfolio.

Of course, it’s not always easy “scaling up.”  Despite the benefits of experience, it can seem like every situation is unique in its own way. It can be very difficult to give individual projects the attention they deserve when trying to be effective across 10, 100, or even 500 buildings. And going big too fast can have real costs if inventory is purchased and then plans change or deadlines are missed. Finally, the sheer effort required to create change in multiple buildings at once can be daunting right from the outset.

That’s why we created the EBies All Together Now portfolio award – to recognize the special opportunities and challenges that come from managing a portfolio. We’re looking forward to honoring the people making it happen across a group of buildings. If that’s you, go to ebies.org to find more details about how to apply and the definition of award categories and portfolios. The deadline for submissions is February 26, and we’ll be honoring finalists and the winners in New York City on June 19, 2013. See you there!

Construction, LEED, Planning

Sandy Alters Coastline, Conversation

No Comments Posted on 05 December 2012 by Yetsuh Frank

For many years folks in green building and sustainable development circles have questioned the logic of developing in coastal areas and flood plains.  As the New York City region now knows firsthand, coastal areas are susceptible to harm and when development is pursued a loss of habitat (like wetlands) inevitably follows, directly or indirectly.  LEED, for instance, provides credit to projects that avoid areas like wetlands, water bodies and habitat of endangered species.  Notably, this is not a prerequisite to achieve LEED, but a voluntary credit (though making this a pre-req has been proposed in LEED v4, slated for 2013 rollout.)

Typically this issue is raised only when new developments are under consideration.  Very few people in the mainstream conversation have advocated for retrenchment from established communities, no matter how vulnerable.  Exceptions that come to mind include regions like the Mississippi River flood plain, where recurring floods have required an almost annual outlay of significant funds to reconstruct devastated communities, and post Katrina New Orleans- when many questioned whether there should be a city in that location at all (though presumably those people have never been to Mardi Gras.)  After Katrina and the BP spill in the gulf there were spikes in conversation about the impacts of human development and how we had managed to remove 34 square miles of wetland habitat from Southern Louisiana EACH YEAR for five decades- habitat that might have softened the blow of Katrina and helped clean crude oil and other toxins out of the ecosystem.   A similar discussion point has been heard after Sandy, with people pointing out that wetlands and oyster habitat used to be extensive in New York Harbor (and around Staten Island and the Rockaways) with lots of speculation about how the presence of these ecosystems might have mitigated the impact of the storm.

Credit: ARO, dLand Studio

Among the most reproduced images post-Sandy was this rendering, by the design firms Architectural Research Office and dLand Studio, of New York Harbor redesigned to withstand dramatic sea level rise, for the Rising Currents exhibit at MoMA- a prescient examination of the impacts of sea level rise on the NYC waterfront in 2010.

But for the most part, no one questions the right of cities and towns to exist much as they are- mostly folks wonder what can be done to make our communities more resilient in the face of dramatic events, whether it be storm surges or heat waves.

But we may be witnessing a turn in this conversation.

Last week it was reported that City Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn asked Lightstone Development to withdraw their application to build a 700-unit housing complex alongside the Gowanus canal.  For those not familiar, the Gowanus canal penetrates almost two miles into Brooklyn from New York Harbor and it suffered severe flooding during Sandy.  Exacerbating the situation, the canal is a Superfund site–laden with myriad toxins and other nasties left over from its industrial past. The Gowanus is also an active outfall for our combined sewer system (in New York City, and most northeast cities of the same age, the sewer and stormwater systems are combined and when it rains the system can be quickly overwhelmed, resulting in raw sewage being diverted to surrounding waterways.)  All of which makes the Gowanus quite a noxious body of water (sarcastically nicknamed Lavender Lake by the locals) but, property values being what they are in New York, there is significant pressure to develop around it.  And Lightstone has responded that they intend to move forward with the project.

Credit: Lightstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York City is a place that revolves around, and is largely defined by, real estate. Property ownership is sacrosanct, in some circles probably considered more fundamental than access to oxygen.  The Lightstone proposal is essentially “as of right”- meaning they are not requesting any variances to zoning or codes like more bulk or more square footage than allowed by the baseline codes, and therefore will not have to go through extensive environmental reviews.  Whether you agree or disagree with a new housing complex being located alongside the Gowanus, it is a significant change in the conversation for a public figure to openly request that the developer withdraw their proposal.  Will Lander be suggesting a wholesale review of the zoning around the Gowanus?  Or will the city be reviewing proposals near water bodies with a renewed scrutiny?  The former seems complicated and the latter seems a little vague, and probably unfair.  That said, Lander raises good questions about the ability of the project to withstand storm events.  There are not easy answers to these questions, and I’m certainly not suggesting solutions here.  But the conversation has started.  We should all take note.

Construction, LEED, Products & Materials

Greenbuild Opening Plenary Recap

No Comments Posted on 15 November 2012 by Tiffany Broyles Yost

Greenbuild kicked off on Wednesday with a great welcome from San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and an inspiring presentation about the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.  Arguing that “where we learn matters,” Geraud Darnis (President & CEO, UTC Climate, Controls & Security, and Urban Green 2012 Gala Honoree) and Rachel Gutter (Director, Center for Green Schools at USGBC) spoke about the educational and social benefits of healthy schools. We worry about what our children eat and what they watch on television, but we often neglect to think about the buildings in which they learn. The Center for Green Schools is trying to change that.  In New York, Urban Green Council’s Emerging Professionals have been involved in sustainability-focused curriculum development at a Manhattan green school under the GELL program, so we’re well aware of the benefits of this type of work.

No presentation about green schools is complete though without a video of adorable children in day-lit classrooms. Gutter obliged and, by the end of the video, the audience at the Opening Plenary seemed fully convinced by the tiny voices that told us  ”where I learn matters.” Now with a young child of my own, those cute little kids totally got me – I was ready to to run out of the conference hall and get to work designing and building a great green school for every child everywhere!

That sentiment would have to wait though, because Rick Fedrizzi was next. I’ve heard USGBC President and CEO Fedrizzi speak on several occasions, and even had a chance to chat with him at Urban Green’s Gala.  Had he not founded USGBC, he could have been a motivational speaker. Fedrizzi’s talks are often inspirational, but this speech at Greenbuild was one of the most rousing I’ve seen.  He seemed fired up and ready to go in a new way. Fedrizzi called on the green building community to collaborate more with other groups and to talk not just to each other, but also to those outside of our circle. Here I was reminded of Urban Green’s conference, Cooling on Climate Change. This concept was exactly what we were arguing there; panelists spoke about climate change messaging and how to better communicate with those concerned about carbon pollution versus those indifferent about mitigating or adapting to a changing climate.

Fedrizzi linked the green building movement to social justice campaigns from women’s suffrage and civil rights to today’s gay rights and marriage equality efforts, all of which required hard work, lots of discussion, and time. Like these movements, widespread acceptance of healthy and sustainable building is not a question of if but of when. The USGBC leader argued for collaboration and, referencing Majora Carter’s sentiment about improving one’s neighborhood, stated “you don’t have to leave this country to build a better one.”

That’s good news and it’s up to us to make the change we want to see.  As we learned at Cooling on Climate Change, to do so requires that we speak about the issues we are concerned about to a variety of audiences. Fedrizzi also reminded us that our mission (healthy buildings, neighborhoods, and cities) is not only a just cause, but also supports a strong economy and offers a sound business case. He called on us to get to the hard work of reaching out and making green building standard building and left us with this mantra to remind us why we are working so hard: “We are right.”

LEED, Planning

Don’t Be Al Gore

No Comments Posted on 18 September 2012 by Cecil Scheib

The following was blogged live from our Fall Conference on September 18, 2012 – “Cooling on Climate Change: Designing the Message.” Panelist Dan Probst, Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services at Jones Lang LaSalle, discusses the role of the green building industry in addressing global climate change.

Dan Probst would like to see everyone in America take personal and professional action to mitigate climate change…but more realistically, he focuses on helping building owners improve building performance. He remembers showing a series of Al Gore style slides to a building industry group, and thinking he did a great job — only to be told by an audience member that the whole global warming thing was a hoax. Belatedly, he realized that he should have been focusing on what was important to the people he was talking to, not what he thought was important.

 

In the building industry, “we have to get out there and retrofit”, Dan says. “Cash for clunkers” type programs won’t work (at least for commercial buildings) because the stock doesn’t turn over fast enough; we have to improve existing buildings. He pointed to the example of the Empire State Building as a 1930s-era building that was able to perform deep energy retrofits that were cost effective. However, sometimes that ESB example is “scary” to people, says Dan, because there was significant capital investment involved. Not to worry – he believes operational and “low-cost/no-cost” changes can also produce big savings.

 

Dan reiterated a message heard many times during the conference: focus on related drivers to sustainability, like future proofing assets, risk management, employee retention, and brand enhancement, to support efforts that address climate change.

 

Big players like the SEC and major investors and insurers are spending time researching and understanding climate change risk. If these conservative institutions are spending time and energy in this area, building owners probably should too. Dan used figures that LEED buildings command a rent premium, as well as statistics showing reduced absenteeism and increased employee satisfaction, to demonstrate the value proposition of green building. He says it’s something every building owner could be thinking about.

Construction, Emerging Professionals (EP), LEED

Emerging Professionals Raise Funds for Project Haiti

No Comments Posted on 29 August 2012 by Jessica Cooper

The media coverage of the earthquake that devastated Haiti and the city of Port au Prince on January 12, 2010 stopped long ago, creating a silence that allows many of us to remove the event from the list of immediately pressing concerns.

For a moment, let us think back to 2010 when initial reports stated that the total cost of the earthquake was between $8 billion and $14 billion and the death toll was approximately 316,000.   Later, in June 2011, the International Organization for Migration reported that an estimated 634,000 people were still living in displacement camps (New York Times).  Now, two and a half years after the natural disaster, hundreds of thousands are still living without safe housing and much of the infrastructure in Port au Price remains in disrepair.  Tent camps and damaged buildings provide unstable housing for those remaining in the city, while others have moved to the countryside to build homes with tarps and sheet metal. The crisis is far from over, and the need to build more permanent housing and infrastructure in Haiti still persists.

During times like these, it seems that our role as architects, engineers, developers, and builders is obvious.  The concepts of social entrepreneurship, social architecture, or social engineering have been around for a long time, all of which revolve around the goal of mitigating a social problem through conscious organization, planning, or design.  Shortly after news of Haiti’s earthquake reached this country, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) committed to helping the people of Haiti rebuild and recover from the disaster.  The current USGBC-led initiative, Project Haiti, is an effort to build a LEED-certified orphanage in Port au Prince.  Once complete, the Orphanage and Children’s Center will provide shelter and safety, immediate care, and a hopeful future for children.

Upon hearing about USGBC’s effort to raise money for this noteworthy project, the Urban Green Council Emerging Professionals came on board to support the cause.  At a fundraiser on August 15, 2012, the group raised over $1,700 to be donated to USGBC and used exclusively for expenses related to the design and construction of Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center.  The evening was a cultural celebration with a brief presentation of the project and a performance by local Haitian drumming group, La Troupe Makandal.  A generous donation of raffle prizes from the Four Seasons Restaurant, TJ Allan, Rachel Goldfarb, Volta, Alexandra Weiss Designs, and Urban Green Council contributed to the funds raised.  See photos from the event here.

This project has been designed as a model for high-performance green building practices that can be tailored to any culture.  As sustainable builders, we cannot just rebuild buildings and infrastructure; we must “rebuild them better”. Project Haiti aims to inspire and teach how construction can both minimize impacts on the environment and, through maximizing energy and water conservation, be financially sustainable.  Sponsored by USGBC with partnership from the Foundation L’enfant Jesus and pro-bono design by HOK, Project Haiti has been recognized as a Commitment Maker by the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Urban Green Council Emerging Professionals are a dedicated group of young professionals who work to create a network of leaders in the field of sustainability.  Led by a core group of volunteer leaders, they develop opportunities for involvement through Urban Green Council to further generate momentum for the green building industry.

Want to learn more about how the green building industry is practicing “social design”?  Urban Green Council’s conference Cooling on Climate Change: Designing the Message on September 18, will examine how the green building industry should be responding to climate change by asking questions such as: How can the green building movement better communicate the threats of climate change?  What role do designers, developers, operators, and other real estate professionals have in climate change activism?  What role does marketing play regarding climate change in the green building industry?  How are marketing strategies adjusted for clients who are uninterested in mitigating climate change?

Construction, Energy, LEED, Uncategorized

USGBC Announces Delayed Ballot for LEED 2012

No Comments Posted on 06 June 2012 by Tiffany Broyles Yost

On Monday USGBC announced it will postpone voting on the LEED 2012 rating system (now know as LEED v4) until as late as July 2013.  The announcement came in a direct letter to members from USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chairman, Rick Fedrizzi stating “this change is 100% in response to helping our stakeholders fully understand and embrace this next big step.”

The new rating system represents a significant step forward in that there is a focus on performance metrics.  Additionally USGBC is working to better the user experience by improving educational and reference materials and streamlining the credit documentation process.  The primary differences between LEED 2009 and LEED v4 are:

  • New Market Sectors – the new system covers data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality projects, existing schools, existing retail, and mid-rise residential.
  • Increased Technical Rigor – improvements to how credits are calculated and documented based on market data, stakeholder input, and technological advancements.
  • Credit Weightings – revised point distribution more closely tied to USGBC priorities.

These changes are intended to raise the bar for performance and transform the market.  Still some long-time LEED proponents felt the change was too much, too fast.

By pushing the balloting period back, USGBC lengthens the time for projects to “test drive” LEED v4 with the hope that lessons learned from the beta period will be incorporated into the final version of the rating system. It also ensures LEED 2009 will remain available for registration through 2015, relieving concerns of those just now fully engaged with the current version.

Finally, a fifth public comment period will be opened from Oct. 10 through Dec. 10, 2012 corresponding with Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco this November, providing an opportunity for more face-to-face discussion and feedback.

The new timeline should allow a more seamless transition to LEED v4 and help designers and manufacturers prepare their businesses for the changes.  For our part, Urban Green Council will be hosting a series of sessions covering the changes in LEED v4 and the implications on green building in New York City. Watch our calendar for updates at the end of the summer.

For a more in-depth look at the implications of this decision and the factors behind it, please see Nadiv Malin’s informative piece in BuildingGreen.

© 2012 Urban Green Blog.